Southwest Gallery, which opened in 1967, is one of the longest operating art galleries in Dallas. When you walk through its doors on Sigma Road, you immediately notice the incredible quality of art offered. Everywhere you look there are paintings upon paintings of varying styles blanketing the walls. You could spend hours appreciating the art and never examine the same piece twice.
Director Bob Malenfant has been with the gallery since Photograph by Holger Obenaus 1988 and has been a partner since 1995. When he speaks about Southwest Gallery, his passion for art and the gallery itself shines through. Southwest Gallery is all about the experience for customers. “We want it to be a relaxed and fun atmosphere, and for you to know that buying these pieces will change your life and your environment,” says Malenfant.
Contrary to its name, Southwest Gallery houses so much more than Southwestern art. “That’s only one small fraction of our collection. In 1967, when the gallery was named, it referred to geographical location; there wasn’t even Southwestern art back then!” says Malenfant. Southwest Gallery is 16,000 square feet and lined floor to ceiling with hundreds of artists’ work. The directors look for quality and value in addition to consistency in the artists they represent.
The expansive variety of art is one of the reasons the gallery sees so much repeat business. “There is a lot of history here with the artists and clientele,” says Malenfant. Customers know that the experience at Southwest Gallery is like no other. It is a full-service gallery and offers everything from framing and installation to appraisals— essentially everything you need with art procurement. “Our customers get to know our consultants, the staff, installers and me,” Malenfant says. “We even have kids and grandkids of our original clients buying from us now!”
Art consultants start the dialogue with customers, helping them choose the perfect piece for their space and making sure they leave with something that they connect with emotionally. Customers can even select up to five pieces to take home for a week and live with. This policy allows a client to see how they like the artwork in the space physically and to experience how they feel about it emotionally in their personal surroundings. “Our customers are always really happy with the end result,” says Malenfant.
When you leave with a painting or sculpture from Southwest Gallery, you’re taking home so much more than a piece of art. Malenfant’s favorite story about Southwest Gallery is that of a client who came in to buy a painting for his home. He had a beautiful home and had invested in furniture but never art. The client became overwhelmed when he first entered the gallery, so Malenfant traveled back and forth to the client’s home with paintings for him to choose from. Over the course of a year, the client kept coming back to the gallery to choose more art for each room. Malenfant remembers the client saying repeatedly: “You made my house a home.”
Southwest Gallery impacts the lives of everyone who walks through the doors. The staff is like a family and Malenfant expresses his gratitude for being a part of it. “The gallery is very rewarding,” Malenfant says, adding that he loves “opening customers’ eyes” to new styles of art to bring more emotion into their homes. “It’s fun to see them excited about things they wouldn’t have bought before.” Developing long-term relationships with customers is a big goal and one of Malenfant’s favorite aspects of his position.
“I love seeing new pieces that come in from our artists. I work with great people and have an amazing clientele. I love the art business and have no plans to ever retire!” he exclaims.
Kasey Goedeker is a Dallas-based freelance writer, social media expert and fashion blogger. Visit runninginheelsblog.com.